Is Sports Betting Legal in Texas?

Texas Flag Behind a Hammer and Gavel With an Online Sports Betting Screen on Left

Texas isn’t exactly the friendliest state towards gambling. Up until a few decades ago, it didn’t allow any forms of gambling besides pari-mutuel betting.

This situation has changed to some degree, with more types of gambling becoming available in the Lone Star State. Is sports betting one of these options?

You can check out the following post to see if sports betting is legal in Texas. You’ll also learn more about online wagering in the Lone Star State.

Sports Gambling Is Illegal in Texas for the Most Part

As I’ll cover letter, sports betting is legally available in Texas through a couple of channels. For the most part, though, it’s illegal here.

The Lone Star State is one of the least open-minded places when it comes to gambling. While it does offer a few ways to wager, it’s not entirely receptive to the idea.

As a result, no legal land-based or online sportsbooks operate in Texas. This situation doesn’t look to change any time soon either.

Underground bookies have existed in the state for decades. However, bookies and the people betting with them are breaking the law. But just how serious is this for the people placing the bets?

According to Section 47.01 of Texas’ criminal code, a bet counts as entering “into an understanding in order to win or lose something of value in any activity involving chance.” Any unregulated activity that fits into this definition thereby constitutes illegal betting.

Sports wagering definitely isn’t an exception to the law. It has never been approved in the Lone Star State and is thus unlawful. That said, both bookies and gamblers are floating the law when they engage in betting.

The Arkansas Queen Cruise Offers Legal Sports Gambling

You won’t find a legal land-based sportsbook operating in Texas. However, you will find a water-based bookmaker.

Docking in the Corpus Christi area on the state’s southeastern coast, the Arkansas Queen is the only Texas entity that can accept legal sports wagers.

The big catch, though, is that the Arkansas Queen can’t take these wagers while it’s docked or even a few miles off the coast. Instead, it must head for international waters.

Once the Arkansas Queen is approximately 9 miles off the coast, it’s no longer subject to Texas’ laws. Therefore, it can accept sports bets from passengers.

Cruise Ship and Casino Floor

This cruise ship also offers casino games, such as roulette, blackjack, and slots. Interestingly enough, passengers as young as 18 years old can partake in both casino gaming and sports gambling.

Why Is the Lone Star State So Against Sports Betting?

Thanks to the Arkansas Queen, Texas isn’t entirely void of sports wagering options. Again, though, the ship must sail 9 miles off the coast before it can take sports bets.

Outside of this small exception, the Lone Star State is void of legal betting opportunities. It has traditionally taken a tough approach towards gambling.

The reason why is because Texas politics are largely controlled by the religious right. Fundamentalists aren’t overly keen on gambling.

Meanwhile, many other states across the US have either legalized sports betting or are discussing in the matter. Texas will probably be one of the last jurisdictions to join them.

Will Texas Legalize Sports Betting in the Future?

Some lawmakers in the Lone Star State recently showed mild interest towards casinos. Of course, they were probably also lobbied heavily by the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Throughout 2020 and early 2021, Sands poured millions of dollars into advertising and lobbying in Texas. Its goal was to get casinos legalized within the state.

Texas State Flag

This casino corporation’s efforts didn’t result in legal gaming. In fact, its bill didn’t even get a hearing with the committee.

Nevertheless, the Sands’ push represents the most attention that casinos have ever gotten in Texas. It at least opened the door for either Sands or another casino company to continue pursuing gaming.

What Would Happen if Texas Legalized Sports Wagering?

As mentioned before, the prospects of Texas sports betting aren’t great. You shouldn’t hold your breath on this happening any time soon.

What would happen, though, if the Lone Star State were to regulate sports gambling? For one thing, it would boast one of the country’s most lucrative betting markets.

Texas is home to 29 million residents. It features four of America’s largest cities in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

The state also has a huge economy that generates $1.9 billion in GDP. Given this huge economy and population, it has a booming sports gambling market just waiting to be unleashed.

Texas would have no trouble drawing major betting brands. Bet MGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and more would come calling for licenses. And they’d be willing to pay a lot of money to secure the licenses.

This state would be able to feature lucrative land-based and online sportsbooks. By comparison, smaller states have trouble supporting brick-and-mortar locations. In the case of Wyoming and Tennessee, land-based bookmakers aren’t even available—only online betting.

As for Texans, they’d finally have legal and regulated places to bet. They could either walk into a brick-and-mortar establishment or wager online at fully licensed sites.

Online Sports Betting Is Prominent in the Lone Star State

Texas may not currently have a regulated sports gambling market, but it still draws plenty of betting action. Many offshore bookmakers serve this state.

The Lone Star State doesn’t specifically mention anything in its laws about online sports betting being illegal. That said, offshore operators feel comfortable serving Texans.

You won’t need to look hard to find an available betting site here. Some of the industry’s top online sportsbooks offer their services in this state.

You should be careful, however, because these betting sites aren’t regulated. Texas gaming regulators won’t step in and help you if anything goes wrong.

Two Laptops Showing Sports in Front of a Pile of Money

That said, you want to read plenty of reviews before choosing a site. Reviews will fill you in on if a particular mobile sportsbook has had any previous issues.

Assuming there are no major red flags like slow payouts or poor support, then you should proceed to check out the other aspects. The bonus, odds, available markets, banking options, and customer support are all important.

Once you feel comfortable with a Texas online sportsbook, you can proceed to registering and depositing. The latter process simply involves choosing an available banking option and entering how much you’d like to deposit.

Will You Be Arrested for Gambling on Sports in Texas?

The Lone Star State has neither approved nor banned mobile sports wagering. Its market remains unregulated and in a legal gray area.

Even still, some prosecutor could try cooking up a case using Texas’ broad definition of illegal gambling. They might be successful in prosecuting an online bettor too.

However, there’s almost 0% chance of this happening. Both prosecutors and law enforcement have much more important crimes to focus on.

They’ve never shown any inclination to go after internet sports gamblers in the past. The legal system is almost assuredly not going to do so any time in the near future.

I can’t fully guarantee that you won’t be arrested for placing online sports bets in Texas. However, I’d be willing to stake seven figures (if I had it) on you never get arrested for this crime.

With burglaries, assaults, murders, and financial crimes to worry about, this state’s legal system has no interest in pursuing online bettors.

Conclusion

Sports gambling is generally illegal in Texas. A couple of exceptions exist, however, including a cruise ship and mobile sports betting.

The Arkansas Queen can offer casino games and sports wagering when it hits international waters. It needs to sail about 9 miles off the TX coast before accepting bets.

Online betting isn’t legally approved nor regulated in the Lone Star State. Nevertheless, it has been ignored and even tolerated for over a quarter-century.

In summary, you won’t be able to enjoy legal and licensed sportsbooks in Texas any time soon. Fortunately, though, you can still find ways to bet here without much trouble.